UN to vote on resolution to improve Syria aid access

The United Nations Security Council will vote Monday on a resolution to allow aid access at four border crossings into rebel-held areas of Syria without government consent, said Western diplomats, who were hopeful Russia and China will support the move.

Australian UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan, who drafted the resolution with Luxembourg and Jordan, posted on Twitter that the final version of the text had been circulated to all 15-council members on Friday. Diplomats said the vote would be held on Monday.

The UN says some 10.8-million people in Syria need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas, while another three million have fled the conflict.

A key sticking point with Russia and China has been a threat of further measures against parties that did not comply with this resolution or resolution 2139 adopted in February – measures that also aimed to boost aid access but failed. Further measures could include economic sanctions, diplomats said.

In a bid to appease Russia and China, language was revised to say the council “affirms” rather than “decides” that it will “take further measures in the event of non-compliance with this resolution or resolution 2139 by any Syrian party”.

To impose punishments for non-compliance, the Security Council would need to agree on another resolution.

Ahead of a final meeting on Friday between the authors of the resolution and the veto-wielding council members – Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France – Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin described the final obstacles in the text that has been negotiated for more than a month.

“There are things which, in our view, had nothing to do with the humanitarian situation … but are simply a part of this continued effort by some members of the international community to indicate that they may be prepared to use military force in Syria,” Churkin told reporters.

“Even though that may not be their intention currently, we vigilantly keep looking for those situations and we’re telling very frankly to our colleagues that we’re not going to be a part of it,” he said.

The Russian and Chinese UN missions were not immediately available for comment on Friday on the final draft resolution.

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted the resolution was not as ambitious as the initial text, which wanted blanket cross-border access. However, they said the four crossings could allow delivery of humanitarian aid to nearly 2 million people.

They had also wanted a Chapter 7 resolution, which covers the council’s authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or military force, but Russia made clear it would block any such resolution.

Syrian ally Russia, supported by China, has already vetoed four resolutions threatening any action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government amid a three-year civil war that has killed at least 150 000 people.

The UN said in April it would need a Chapter 7 resolution to be able to deliver aid across borders without the Syrian government’s consent.

But the UN Office of Legal Affairs has deemed the draft resolution strong enough to allow the UN cross-border aid access without the approval of Damascus, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The draft would authorise deliveries across four crossings from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. It would establish a UN monitoring mechanism for 180 days to observe the loading of all humanitarian relief convoys that would enter Syria.

Syria’s government warned the UN Security Council that delivering humanitarian aid across its borders into rebel-held areas without its consent would amount to an attack. –Reuters

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